Dear Communion of Saints

Dear Communion of Saints by The Ironic CatholicDear Communion of Saints by The Ironic Catholic
Publisher: Smashwords
Number of pages: 90
My copy: ebook from Smashwords

What if “Dear Abby” were a saint? The popular satire and parody website, The Ironic Catholic, takes all the foolish questions we stumbling Christians have offers them to the great Catholic saints, who provide tough-love wisdom, insight, and considerable humor.

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I find it hard to find easy-reading Catholic books. Save for the local ones from Bo Sanchez and Shepherd’s Voice, I feel like there seems to be a lack of books written for Roman Catholics. Sure, there are a lot of Christian books out there, and yes Catholics are also Christians (please, no religious debates here, okay?), but it’s hard to find books that actually talk about saints, the Roman Catholic church and all that. Or maybe I just don’t know where to look.

Anyway, I was going through my Google Reader one day when I saw that I haven’t been reading the ones under my “Faith” tag. So I browsed the feeds and saw magic words, “free ebook” from The Ironic Catholic. I immediately clicked the link and got ready to purchase the book but it turned out the coupon had already expired. I felt a tiny bit disappointed, but then decided to get the ebook anyway since it was only $1.99.

I read this book in between Emma, and it was the kind of book that I needed to clear my classic-muddled brain. Dear Communion of Saints is a collection of blog entries from a feature that The Ironic Catholic had in her blog. It’s a parody of an advice column of sorts for foolish questions that Christians may ask, answered in a saint’s point of view. Of course the author doesn’t mean that the saints would actually say the answers written in the book, but they are based on basic Christian teachings and are pretty obvious answers. Some questions really border on foolishness, too, like if they could play “Bad Romance” during a wedding mass, or why teeth are so poorly made, or how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. There are some questions that somehow make sense, like who to blame regarding lack of mass attendance or if hell is dry heat, or if it’s okay to engage in celebratory hubris. It’s a fun, short book that makes you laugh and think at the same time, while still teaching the readers a bit about Catholic faith and the saints who are “answering” the questions. And it’s not just saints, too, but also some personalities in the Bible such as Job (whose book I just finished reading in the Bible — and it was beautiful) and even some of the archangels, too.

The Ironic Catholic writes in such a funny yet reader friendly way that it makes the saints feel closer and more human than they are viewed now. It’s highly unlikely that the saints would actually say these things (although we really don’t know about their sense of humor, really). I hope people won’t see this as blasphemous or disrespectful of the saints, because the point wasn’t really to capture who the featured saints are. The real point of this collection is, and I quote the author in her introduction:

I am poking fun at foolish human imperfections, many (if not all) of which are my own.

Dear Communion of Saints is a good book for Catholics and non-Catholics (if only by entertainment value) alike. It was a fun and quick read, but I wished there was more. While I pine and wish for a second volume, I will spend some of my free time perusing the author’s blog. You should, too.

Rating: [rating=4]

Havah: The Story of Eve

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Number of pages: 354
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

A single decision has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world’s first woman, without flaw, until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve — the woman first known as Havah.

* * *

I have had Tosca’s book on my TBR shelf since 2009, and I meant to read it soon after I finished reading her other novel, Demon: A Memoir. Somehow, this book got pushed farther and farther down Mt. TBR until I almost forgot about having it. It wasn’t until I was thinking of a good book to start 2011 with that I remembered having this one, so I dug it up from my books, and cracked the book open again come 1st of January.

Around October last year, some of my Goodreads friends started a year-long reading challenge to read the Bible in its entirety. I have tried reading the Bible from cover to cover back in college but I failed miserably when I got to Chronicles. When I heard of the challenge in the group, the challenge addict in me jumped in, choosing to read The Message translation of the Bible for easier reading. The thing with reading the Bible is it’s so easy to be disenchanted with the stories there, especially if you’ve heard the stories in it over and over, particularly in Genesis. What else there is to read about Adam and Eve anyway? They were created, they lived in God’s presence, then Eve got tempted and got Adam in with her. They were banished from the garden, they had kids, and then the world started with them. Not that interesting, right?

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and I guess that has happened to me in the case of Genesis. Tosca Lee breathes life into the story of creation, particularly with the first woman ever created in Havah.

I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror.

I have walked with God.

And I know that God made the hart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one moral chamber.

So it starts. I fell in love with Tosca Lee’s writing with Demon, and I knew Havah is going to be just as beautifully written as the former, if not more. This retelling of Eve from the moment of her creation to their fall to their exile and her mortal life was told in Eve’s point of view, making the novel feel more personal compared to Demon.

I am not an expert in theology so I can’t say how accurate this was or if Tosca missed addressing something in this novel. However, I can say that reading Havah became more than just leisurely reading but almost a personal journey. Eve, christened as Havah by the adam because she “…will live, and all who live will come from [her], and [she] will give birth to hope.” (p. 102), spoke to my heart as she told her story. I guess it’s because she’s a woman, and I sympathized with her struggles and her woes. How I could I not? In a sense, I was also Havah — I sinned against God so many times that I know I am so far away from Him, but I crave for His presence just as Havah sought Him, too. It was that brokenness that got to me the most. I do not blame her for her act of disobedience and in the fall, because as she said quite eloquently, “If not for our transgression, we would not know redemption.” (p. 349) In a sense, Havah really embodied how it is to be a human in this broken world: a constant struggle to find God in our surroundings, in the people and in life, pressing on even if sometimes He seems empty and silent.

Since this was told in her point of view, this will seem like a female-biased novel, but I think (and hope!) that guys will still be able to find themselves in this novel, too. It’s hard to describe this novel in its entirety because there is so much beauty and pain and love in this book.

It took me a while to finish reading this, but I know I made the right choice in starting 2011 with this novel. This is still fiction, of course, and this does not replace the parts written in Genesis, but it definitely helped me understand that part of the Bible more. I had no doubt that this would be a good book after enjoying Tosca’s first novel, but Havah just totally blew my mind and heart away. And if you decide to pick this one up, I hope it does the same for you too. :)

How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart. (p. 28)

Rating: [rating=5]

2011 Challenge Status:
1 of 20 in TwentyEleven Challenge (To YA or Not to YA)

Book trailer:

[youtube jQYoC8XLkEc]

You can also watch Tosca talk about Havah in this video.

Other reviews:
Emily is Smiling
My Only Vice
Christian Fiction Review

Pulling a Job on Jane

The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and May VanderbiltThe Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Publisher: Broadway Books
Number of pages:  304
My copy: paperback, ordered from Amazon

Jane Williams is the happiest woman in New York. She has a dream job, a perfect Manhattan apartment, and a man she wants to marry. Her whole life is mapped out to the finest detail, and things just can’t get any better. But in a New York minute, everything changes. After an evening on the town with a hot Hollywood actor her PR firm is wooing, she wakes up to a day filled with strange occurrences—a weird mark on her face and a red-haired woman who seems to be following her every move. This bizarre day turns increasingly horrible, and over the course of it, Jane loses her boyfriend, her best friend, her job, her home, maybe even her dog. Unsure of why she’s being tested, Jane struggles to hold herself together while her world falls apart. Has God forgotten her?

* * *

It’s a bit hard finding good Christian fiction in the Philippines because truth be told, not many bookstores carry it. Sure, there’s OMF Literature, but the last time I saw Christian fiction on their shelves that isn’t by Frank Peretti (not that I mind, except that I have a lot of Peretti’s already) or Ted Dekker was almost four years ago. I’m glad that I can find some good YA Christian fiction in Fully Booked, but as for chick lit or non-suspense Christian fiction…well, it’s hard. That’s why I result to getting books online instead, because there’s a bigger selection of them there, obviously.

So yes, I ordered this online, and I got it from a sale, which is even more awesome. I’m a fan of Anne and May’s Miracle Girls series (which I will review as a whole once I get the last book in the series, which I hope gets to Fully Booked soon!), but I’ve always been curious about their previous books. When I heard that The Book of Jane was included in Chicklit Club’s Ultimate 100 Chicklit Collection, I decided to put it in my Amazon purchases before my dad went home.

Enough of the story on how I got the book, and let’s get to the actual book. The Book of Jane is a retelling of the story of Job, told in a woman’s perspective and in New York City. We all know the story of Job, right? It’s about a man who’s been blessed by God all his life, and then God allows the devil to wreak havoc in his life (provided he doesn’t harm Job) so they could see if Job would still be faithful to God even if he gets all these misfortunes (I mean come on, his entire family dying? Getting boils all over his body? I experienced the flood and it’s enough to drive me nuts — to experience all that might drive me over the edge). It’s about Jane Williams, who has the perfect apartment, perfect job, perfect friends, perfect boyfriend and perfect family…until everything turns out to be not perfect, and she’s left scrambling for meaning and her faith.

I liked the novel, although I think the similarities to Job ended right there. Okay, I admit to not having read the entire book of Job yet so I can’t make perfect comparisons, but I do know that the book of Job had all these poems about Job’s friends who talk to him about his misfortunes and his faith. Jane seemed alone during her low points, except when she met up with Coates, but for the rest of the time, she had friends and she had things to remind her of her fortune despite the things that happened to her.

Not that it’s bad — it’s actually a pretty good lesson on perspectives. I don’t know what I’m wishing for here, really, except maybe I guess I felt that it was too tame, that Jane didn’t really have it that hard. Maybe I was expecting something more in Jane’s misfortunes, or something. Maybe I’m just a harsh reader? ;)

But the story is quite delightful, and it touches a lot of subjects — faith (obviously), relationships, friendships and even death. I loved Jane’s friend Lee, although I kind of had a feeling he was in the closet. I don’t know, he just had that vibe? I figured who Coates would be in Jane’s life early enough, but their relationship was kind of nice to see that there was more to Coates’ arrogant exterior.

Overall, it’s a good read. The basic idea of Job was there, and although I kind of wish for more, it’s a nice refreshing clean chick-lit that packs a lot of valuable life lessons. :)

Rating: [rating=4]

Revolve 2010 (New Testament Biblezine)

Revolve 2010GOD’S WORD ROCKS…IN REVOLVE 2010! Now in its sixth edition, the Revolve series has proven effective in reaching teenage girls by featuring the Bible in a cool, magazine design. Interspersed throughout the scriptures, girls find articles and images that speak to their concerns and interests: how-to articles, lifestyle features, beauty tips, quizzes, and more. Everything about Revolve 2010 relates directly to teen girls, making it the New Testament they can understand in a format to which they can relate.

I was invited to my roommate’s 18th birthday party a couple of years ago and I knew of a perfect present to give her. I remember back in our dorm, she’d always have the newest issues of her favorite magazines which all of us benefit from, of course.

But local magazines aren’t always the best things to read, because they don’t always offer the best advices, or even have the content that would help teens in growing as God’s princesses. I wanted to give my friend an option, so I set out to look for the Bible magazine that another friend used to have that we browse through when we visit her.

I didn’t get to find a copy of that magazine, but when BookSneeze put Revolve 2010 in their free books, I immediately took it up so I can have a copy of it. I’m not so sure if it would count as a book, since it’s actually a magazine, but then again it also contains the New Testament Bible…so it’s still a book, right?

Anyway, Revolve 2010 is a Bible magazine — or a Biblezine — for teen girls. It’s a Bible in a magazine, simply put. It contains only the New Testament, translated in an easier to understand language, and there are little reflections and thoughts and other fun stuff littered around the issue. It’s made to look like an actual magazine, as you can see in the cover above, but inside, there are little ads for products, and instead of full articles, all the books of the New Testament are there. It’s a refreshing take on the New Testament — none of the “thy”, “thou” or any of the heavy and hard to understand Bible language. There was enough information on each of the New Testament books as an intro — in a teen-friendly language, of course — for them  to understand the books better.

Introduction to Matthew

Certain verses were emphasized as well, and that’s good because it’s easy to see, and sometimes when you just want to get some inspiration or some comfort, those are the things that immediately jump out at you. I just kind of wish they put the verse numbers there so we know where it came from.

Highlighted verse

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